As a child you eagerly awaited the return of school, to see your old friends you had not seen all summer, and to start a new chapter in your life (i.e. hurry up and graduate so you can go to high school, graduate, move out your parents house and party hard in college, LOL!!). Now you are an adult, and unless you are an educator, you just don’t get summer vacations anymore. But this year I decided to change all that, I reinstated the idea of the Summer Vacation. Why? Because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and the summer heat helps to provide some relief. Provided, there is not too much humidity, which there usually is, but I work with what you have.
Now you may be wondering how I accomplished this minor miracle of a Summer Vacation, well first and foremost, I started to reacquaint myself with the Sunday Newspaper, you know that thing your parents use to read faithfully, but now we just view on our phone. Well, it still exists. In the Life and Entertainment sections they listed lots of events that are taking place all around the city, most importantly, tons and tons of Fabulous and Free events. Yes, I said Free. I was shocked, but I guess that is one upside of being in a bad economy, there are tons of deals around town.
So, this is How I Spent my Summer Vacation:
One event that became my favorite was Movies in the Park. This was wonderful, you can bring your own comfy chair and snacks, it was a great way to reconnect with friends, you neighborhood and most of all get out of the house and enjoy a warm summer night. The movies ranged from Old School Classics such as Spike Lee’s Joint “She’s Gotta Have It” to fun animations such as “Mega Mind”. These weekly events were perfect for a comfortable, inexpensive night out with your friends, that special guy or the family.
Next on my list, which was another find out of the Sunday Newspaper was Jazz in the Park. Now I know Jazz is not for everyone, but what I found was that it wasn’t just Jazz, they had Latin Jazz, Neo Soul, Urban and Rock bands throughout the summer. They had some big names like Common, Kem and Tim Bowman just to name a few. Again, perfect for a night out, sitting in your comfy lawn chair (of course I upgraded to the deluxe edition because us Chronic Babes have to be comfortable while having fun) listening to some great music. Again, for free.
I also attended some events that were not free, for your bigger name artist, Sade. But I found that if you call the event location directly and let them know you require handicap accessible assistance they will guide you on parking, building entrance with ease and seating with limited to no steps required. Also, you can purchase your tickets over the phone and most event centers do not charge the convenience fee associated with Ticketmaster. The seat locations are typically pretty good and reasonable priced in comparison to just selecting any seat. In some instances, better than your average seat.
Now, because dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis requires as much movement as possible, I had to incorporate some exercise into my Summer Vacation. Now, usually I try to do Yoga, but when it is 90 degrees, I am not for being inside a stuffy Yoga Studio. So I opted for walks around my neighborhood. I found a wonderful nature trail that had nice streams and ponds. I did this before the sun beamed down hard or after is settled in for the day. Either way it was a perfect way to begin or end a day. Wonderful scenery, low impact and fresh air, you cannot beat it. You can also check out Tai Chi and Yoga in the park or off the water. Nice!!! Some days I just sat on my balcony and stretched my arms in my chair, hey it still counts. LOL!
One of my favorite things, which is not limited to Summer time, is going out to eat. I love lunching with my girls, dining with a hottie or just sitting in a café reading a good book. But in the summer time I needed to spice it up. So I opted for restaurants that had outside eating areas and HAPPY HOURS!! I downloaded a wonderful app on my phone that listed all the happy hour specials that were happening within a 15-mile radius, Loves It!! I found that more and more places had mid-day and late-night happy hours covering both cocktails and food. So of course I was all over it. It was great, because I am not one for bars as I cannot partake in excess standing nor do I feel ultra comfortable in some club situations. This option allowed me to get nice seating, reasonably priced food and a drink if I so choose.
All these events really made it a wonderful summer. Now of course, there were plenty of days where I was stuck in bed or on the couch due to flare-ups, but on the days I could get out, I did and I tried my best to make them count. It was rejuvenating, I reconnected with my friends, both old and new, in a way I never really experienced. I was also able to stick to a budget; you know medical costs are not cheap. I focused on not only being Fabulous and Sick but also Fabulous and Free, and that is How I Spent my Summer Vacation.
When I was a little girl I would watch TV shows that would depict a very beautiful women getting ready for a date with her husband at her dressing mirror. I would always think, WOW, now that is glamour. Now my Mother was a single woman with a full time job and two kids so her getting dressed time consisted of a lot of running around and a quick stance in front of the mirror to put on her makeup. Till this day I am not sure how she could put on a whole face of makeup so quickly, but as all of us women know you do what you got to do to get things done. By the way, my Mother is the type of woman who has to at least have on concealer and lipstick to get the mail…LOL got to love her..
Needless to say, I don’t have that problem, I am sitting here now at a coffee shop, makeup free (BTW this Turkey, Pesto and Gouda grilled cheese is freaking Delish). I also don’t have the ability to go into the bathroom and come out in full makeup at the speed of Clark Kent in a telephone booth. Yes, it takes me a while. So I follow a few simple tips to get ready for my evenings out..
- I try to make any plans to go out in advance. I am not big on short notices, plus I like to rest up. If the evening is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., I usually take an hour nap around 3 p.m. This allows me to be well rested and clear headed.
- Shower time. I take a long hot shower to helps relax my muscles and get my joints nice and warm. Plus you just feel refreshed and energized.
- After my shower, I grab a snack and load up any needed pain medication. All while on the couch, lounging around before a night out helps to conserve your energy for later.
- Dressing time is always fun. I try to pick out my clothes and get them ironed the day prior. This helps to eliminate the feeling of being rushed and over exerted by the time your evening is scheduled to start.
- Time for the makeup chair. I Always Always grab my stool, now it is not a glamorous dressing table or anything like the ones they would show on tv, but it does help get me off my feet and sits me up high enough to see myself vividly in the mirror. My stool has truly been an Angel in this department, and it was $9.99, can’t beat that..
- Majority of my makeup is applied with long stem brushes. This helps alleviates stress on my hands, elbows and shoulders. They are pretty easy to find at any nice cosmetic store such as ULTA and Sephora. I usually buy them with coupons. They are not the cheapest, but if it helps to ease my pain, for me it is worth the investment.
- I typically use makeups that are on palettes. It helps to eliminate the need to keep opening up multiple compacts, searching my make up drawer, everything is right there in front of me. I just sit on my stool and make myself extra pretty. I scoop up makeup palettes around Christmas time when they are on 50% to 80% markdown, you know I am not a full price type of girl..lol
- Now it is time to ‘Fix My Hair”. After make up, I do my hair, simple hairstyles, as I don’t have the energy or capability to get extra fancy, I get fancy via makeup and accessories.
- I get dressed, and then at the very last minute I put on my shoes, with my inserts of course. I also pack a pair of sandals in my car in case the inserts don’t get the job done.
- I check to make sure I have all the essentials in my purse gum, comb, keys and of course pain medications.
All these tips can help with a wonder evening from a romantic dinner with a loved one to an after work affair. It is my routine every time; I try not to deviate too often because for me it just works. Now, of course you can tailor this to your specific needs, the goal it to leave out the door alert, well rested, looking fabulous and ready for a fun evening.
I came across some great information from the Mayo Clinic that I wanted to share. I am providing this information to continue to help dispel the belief that Rheumatoid Arthritis is just about swollen hands and achy joints. This information addresses the impact of RA on the Lungs and Eyes.
Can rheumatoid arthritis affect your lungs?
from April Chang-Miller, M.D.
Although rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects joints, it can also affect your lungs. In fact, lung problems from rheumatoid arthritis sometimes surface before joint problems. The most common lung problems associated with rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Painful breathing. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation of the lining of the lungs (pleurisy). The inflammation can cause sharp pain while breathing.
- Shortness of breath. Fluid due to inflammation of the lining of the lungs may accumulate around the lungs (pleural effusion). This accumulation can cause shortness of breath.
- Lung nodules. Small lumps may form in the lungs (rheumatoid nodules), as well as in other parts of the body. Lung nodules usually cause no signs or symptoms, and they don’t pose a risk of lung cancer. In some cases, however, a nodule can rupture and cause a collapsed lung.
- Scarring of the lungs. Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to scarring within the lungs. Signs and symptoms may include shortness of breath, chronic dry cough, fatigue, weakness and loss of appetite.
Contact your doctor promptly if you have rheumatoid arthritis and experience any unexplained breathing problems. Sometimes treatment is aimed at the underlying rheumatoid arthritis. In other cases, treatment involves medication to suppress the immune system or a procedure to remove fluid from the lungs.
Can rheumatoid arthritis affect the eyes?
from April Chang-Miller, M.D.
Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily a joint disease. However, rheumatoid arthritis occasionally affects other parts of the body — including the eyes. Eye conditions associated with rheumatoid arthritis may include:
- Dry eyes. Generally, preservative-free artificial tears can ease the discomfort of dry eyes. It’s important to note that dry eyes also can be a symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome — an autoimmune disorder that’s often associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Inflammation of the interior of the eye (uveitis). Uveitis may cause eye redness and pain, light sensitivity and blurred vision.
- Inflammation of the membrane covering the white part of the eye (episcleritis). Episcleritis may cause sudden eye discomfort or redness.
- Inflammation of the white part of the eye (scleritis). Scleritis is usually characterized by constant, severe eye pain and tenderness. Sometimes the white of the eye takes on the appearance of a deep violet color — deeper than the eye redness typically seen with episcleritis.
- Glaucoma. Inflammation within the eye can affect the eye’s drainage system, ultimately leading to glaucoma — a condition that can result in blindness. Depending on the type of glaucoma, signs and symptoms may include gradual vision loss, eye pain or blurred vision.
- Cataracts. Several factors may lead to clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye (cataracts), including inflammation within the eye and long-term use of corticosteroid medications often prescribed to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Signs and symptoms may include cloudy, blurred or dim vision.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis and experience eye pain, vision changes or other eye problems, consult an ophthalmologist for an evaluation. Also consult your rheumatologist. Early treatment can help prevent vision-threatening complications.
This is the season for the Arthritis Walk, a wonderful fund-raising event sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation. I jumped in full force on the fund-raising efforts this year getting all my friends and family involved. We wrote e-mails, posted on Facebook, sold snacks, sold “Arthritis Bones” and for a really big innovative push we held a Wine Tasting. The wine tasting was a great way to raise funds and awareness while enjoying the company of friends both old and new. I also found a new love for Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling and Silhouette, wonderful wines at an affordable price. All the attendees fell deeply in love with the information, company, the wines and these wonderful grapes marinated in champagne..DELICIOUS!!!!
The walk itself was WON…DER..FUL (Oprah voice). Recently someone reminded me that when you smile at the world, the world smiles back and this walk was a great reminder. In the past years, I was not the most outgoing person, I stuck to my small circle of friends and didn’t really reach out to the world. But as I grow into my life as a single woman and start to live beyond just coping with my illness I have been making an effort to not only enjoy my life but to reach out to others. I truly believe this new approach has made a difference in my life both physically and mentally. Last year for the walk I raised $400.00 and walked by myself, my mom, niece and cousin joined later, but I walked the route by myself. This year my team raised over $1300.00 and my team was comprised of 14 people. Now that is love and it felt great. The kids had a chance to enjoy face painting, treats and trinkets and see all the animals at the Zoo, the adults had just as much fun. Most importantly everyone got a chance to learn about the Arthritis Foundation and their many wonderful programs. Overall, It was a fabulous experience and I am so thankful to all my friends and Family who supported.
Recently there was a discussion online regarding more entertainers sharing with the world their struggles with chronic illness. Of course there are some, such as Kathleen Turner, who have come out with the fact that they have RA. She has a great story and cautionary tell of dealing with being diagnosed with RA. However, I always new there were others dealing with an autoimmune disease..Well, recently one of my besties has gotten me addicted to the reality show “Braxton Family Values” staring Grammy award winning Toni Braxton. Love it..Full of drama and comedy, they really bring it. On this past episode she announced to her family and the world that she has Lupus. It has been impacting her heart and lungs and has caused her to put her performing career on hold. She decided to tell everyone to encourage early diagnosis, because her being diagnosed with Lupus late, had a harsh impact on her life. By the time she was diagnosed her body was in such a bad flare that she couldn’t perform and had to cancel her performance contracts, which led to financial disaster. This is a terrible position to be in, and so many people have had to stop working, give up their dreams in some form or another just to take care of themselves. So it may sound crazy, but there is some comfort is knowing you are not alone, this can happen to anyone, you are not being punished..Autoimmune is a random illness that impacts rich, poor, Black, White, Fabulous and, well everyone is fabulous in their on way..
I think it took a lot of courage for Toni to come out and share with the world her battle with Lupus. I am sure it was very difficult for her to come out with her truth especially while going through a divorce, a son who has Autism and financial woes. But for someone like me who can identify with her health struggles and in part her personal issues, I will definitely go out and support her projects. It is a great testament to how important it is to share your story to hopefully inspire others to pay attention when their body is telling them something is wrong. Hats off to you Miss Braxton..you truly exemplify being Fabulous and Sick..
For more info..check out this great article with Braxton in Black Enterprise.
I ran into a friend of mine one day and we began to talk about the changes that were going on in her life. She has been laid off from her job for a bout a year now and has been unable to find employment. She has been on many interviews, both 2nd and 3rd phases, however nothing has materialized. Then she began to notice that in many of her interviews, she was asked if she would be able to consult with them on training programs and other projects. In the past she had declined, however, in her last interview she agreed to become their training consultant. I congratulated her and told her that this sounds like a good opportunity. She replied, thanks, but consulting was not her plan, getting a job was her plan. I laughed and told her to think of the many consulting offers you have received in the past year as whispers from the universe putting her on a different path. Then of course I had to reflect on something I heard Oprah say “God can dream a bigger dream for you then you could ever dream”.
This image helps to remind me of this. On days when you can’t get out of the bed from the pain, the meds aren’t working the best and you have to schedule another week off of work for health reasons, the universe still has a plan for you. It may not be what you wanted or expected, but there is a bigger dream for you to fulfill.
Photo by: Ameir Amadi
I was reading a post in one of my favorite online chat rooms and notice the question of the day was “How has RA made you realize what is Important” and I thought to myself, WOW that is something to think about. So many times in my life I have found myself thinking about the limitations Arthritis has placed on my life, so it is refreshing to focus on the positive aspect of RA.
In my life I have had to make many adjustments to accommodate my illness, from my career choices (reduced hours, less stressful position, time off of work) to how I do my laundry (I use a butter knife to open the dryer door). But in making these adjustments, I have discovered wonderful things about life and myself. I now practice Yoga and Meditation, which has brought a new level of peace and calmness in my life, while providing some much needed stretching for my sore joints. The time I have spent in my practice has allowed me time to focus on the positive aspects of my life and listen to my heart, which has become inner teacher.
Physically, I have had to gain a confidence in a way I never thought would be required of myself. My surgeries have left me with scars that are a tell sign of my condition. At first, I was ashamed of my scars and never wanted them to show. I even selected my clothes around which items hid my scars. But after much reflection, I have learned to accept these scars as a part of me and accept them as things that do not define me. Now I wear what I want, without any thought if someone will see my scars, because what is on the outside is not as important as what is within me. The medications I take for RA have harsh side effects that have caused extreme swings in my weight, resulting in a transformation that have brought me in and out of my comfort zone. To the point where people have ridiculed me and made me feel very self-conscious. But I noticed that my true friends, who were aware of my illness, loved me regardless of my size and never took a harsh position. Not to say they did not show concern, but they never made me uncomfortable. They always showed their support and love, which helped teach me about the importance of real friendship and love. As a result, I make a concerted effort to nourish and support my friendships, which is something I was not the best at doing in the past.
Overall RA has made me realize that Peace, Health, Happiness, Love for Myself and True Friendships are important to me in my life. These things are staples that I must have to ensure a joyful life and I don’t think I would have learned these things this early in my life if it were not for RA.
How has your illness made you realize What is Important?